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April 9, 2014

Tornado source of even more damage

GREENVILLE — The damage total in Hunt County as a result of last week’s tornadic thunderstorms continues to grow, as reports of damaged homes increase.

Caretakers of a historic Hunt County cemetery are asking for help, as they deal with the damage done to the site.

David Alexander with the office of Hunt County Emergency Management investigated a report Tuesday morning about additional homes being destroyed along and near County Road 4415/Miles Lane near Wolfe City.

“We had three mobile homes and a travel trailer that were just blown up,” Alexander said, indicating the site was about a half-mile beyond what National Weather Service damage assessment teams had previously surveyed regarding the April 3 tornado.

Dixon Latham and Jeramy Cleghorn, who live along CR 4415, said that they were able to escape the area minutes before the tornado hit. Cleghorn said it was the incoming clouds that warned him of the tornado.

“I saw the clouds coming this way; I grew up in West Texas, so I knew we had to go,” he said. “I saw the funnel cloud as we were heading toward [Highway] 34.”

Cleghorn said several homes are destroyed or uninhabitable.

“Two mobile homes are completely destroyed; two mobile homes are damaged to the point of being uninhabitable; two travel trailers were destroyed; one travel trailer is damaged beyond repair; one house has collapsed walls and roof removed; and one house had serious roof damage, but is repairable,” he said of homes along a quarter-mile stretch of CR 4415.

South on CR 4415 from Latham and Cleghorn’s homes, Gary Malone’s mobile home was completely destroyed. Latham said that Malone was injured during the tornado.

Debris is still scattered in the area in the wake of the tornado, even after four days of cleanup by local residents. Latham, who lost the roof on his mobile home among other damage, said that a volunteer from the Salvation Army, Johnson Street Church of Christ, Home Depot and the Red Cross have all helped with the cleanup, but that materials and trash removal are still needed.

“Home Depot came out an donated a lot of materials,” he said. “A volunteer from the Salvation Army was very helpful. We have received a lot of good help.”

However, both Cleghorn and Latham said they were not contacted by first responders, and information of the damage was not initially reported by county officials or the National Weather Service. To contact residents along CR 4415, call Cleghorn at 903-450-2855.

Alexander said the weather service would be notified of the additional damage, but it was unknown if the agency would be sending any more assessment teams to the area.

Officials with McWright Cemetery said Tuesday the site, one of the oldest cemeteries in Hunt County, was also heavily damaged during the storms.

“It is like an atom bomb lit up out there,’ said Marshall Brooks, vice president of the McWright Cemetery Association.

The cemetery is off of FM 2194 near Kingston and is not far from where the National Weather Service reported the EF-1 tornado touched down. Multiple tombstones were toppled, while several more sustained damage when huge tree limbs fell on to the monuments. A covered meeting area at the cemetery had damage to its beams and metal roof.

Brooks said some volunteers had already attempted to clear away the damage, but had hardly made a dent as of Tuesday.

“There’s just so much,’ he said. “We don’t have the funds much. It is all kept up by donations.”

Brooks said the organization is seeking offers of cash or volunteer labor to help the restore cemetery, which contains graves dating back to 1847.

“We’ll take whatever we can get,” he said.

Anyone wanting to assist the cemetery is being asked to contact Ronnie Steen at 903-456-0013.


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